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Today I want to share a story from TPG reader Soheil, who found a shortcut to aid his Marriott elite qualification in 2018:

At the end of last year, I was trying to decide whether to do a couple mattress runs to reach Marriott Platinum Premier Elite status for 2019. I was a Platinum Elite member with 63 elite nights, so I needed 12 more to reach the 75-night threshold. Since I didn’t have any travel plans, achieving Platinum Premier would have meant selecting five elite night credits as my annual Choice Benefit, redeeming points and a free night certificate for three nights, and paying at least $500 for four paid mattress runs.

After much consideration and research, I decided reaching Platinum Premier wasn’t worth the investment in money and rewards. I was ready to give up, but then I came across two benefits of the Marriott Rewards program (thanks to Marriott Insiders) that allowed me to reach Platinum Premier at a much lower cost. The first is the birthday elite night credit; my birthday is in December, but I noticed that I had not received the credit. After calling customer service and making sure that my birthday was updated in my profile, they credited me one elite night. Now I only needed 11 more!

The second is the Rewarding Events program, which gives you points and credits when you book a meeting or event at a participating Marriott property. You earn 2 points per dollar, but what was more interesting to me was the 10 elite night credits you get after booking your first event under this program! I was able to book a two-hour “business meeting” at my local Courtyard for only $150 and receive my credits. Finally, I used my annual free night certificate from my Marriott credit card (old version) to book one night at the same property, allowing me to reach my goal of 75 nights for 2018.

I did all of this at the very end of the year; I called customer service on December 29 and had my business meeting on December 30, so in two days I was able to add 12 nights to my account! What’s even more exciting is that I didn’t have to waste my Choice Benefit on elite nights. Instead, I opted to receive five Suite Night Awards. My wife is already planning a vacation where we can put the upgrades to good use.

The Rewarding Events program was even more fruitful before the new, unified Marriott Rewards launched last August. Prior to the merger with SPG and Ritz-Carlton, members could earn 10 elite nights for each qualifying event (not just their first), clearing a path to elite status that didn’t involve paid stays or credit card spending. Despite the new rules, Soheil’s approach is still viable, and could be useful to anyone who finds themselves a few elite nights short at the end of the year. Even if you’re no longer eligible for the first-time bonus, hosting an event could be more cost effective than a traditional mattress run.

(Update 2/14/19: with the launch of the Marriott Bonvoy program, members are now eligible to earn 10 elite nights for their first qualifying event each calendar year.)

Perhaps my favorite part of Soheil’s story is his initial willingness to forgo Platinum Premier status when he couldn’t justify the cost to earn it. It’s easy to get swept up in the pursuit of elite status, but you shouldn’t take it for granted that the benefits you receive will be worthwhile. If you aren’t going to qualify organically, I recommend taking a sober look at the value you expect to get from being an elite member and comparing that to the cost of manufacturing status through a mattress run or other shortcuts. Once you’ve established you’ll get a good return on your investment, you can proceed confidently.

I love this story and I want to hear more like it! In appreciation for sharing this experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending Soheil a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I’d like to do the same for you. Please email your own award travel success stories to info@thepointsguy.com; be sure to include details about how you earned and redeemed your rewards, and put “Reader Success Story” in the subject line. Feel free to also submit your most woeful travel mistakes, or to contribute to our new award redemption series. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure.

Safe and happy travels to all, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Featured image by Benjamin Child via Unsplash.

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